Gary’s Inner Chimp goes fell running
Last Tuesday, Graham and I went for a “social pace” ride round the more scenic parts of Sausage Roll County, if such things actually exist. Over the thick end of 40 miles we took in Dalmeny, the Forth Bridges (under, not over), the wonderfully-named Faucheldean (not scenic, incidentally) and Linlithgow. Prior to reaching the Royal Burgh, Graham had casually suggested, “just want to drop down into Linlithgow and come back over Cairnpapple?” Oh, fuck. Of course I answered, “aye, no problem.”
Cairnpapple itself is a ceremonial and burial site dating back to Neolithic times. But that is a mere irrelevance when one considers my own recent history with it. Among local cyclists, it’s apparently a bit of a rite of passage with the road that takes visitors to the site (allegedly) being as steep as 17%. It’s also a rite of passage that I’d previously failed when I ended up getting off and pushing at one point. So on Tuesday night, I was inwardly less-than-thrilled to be heading back to the scene of my previous Calvary.
Social pace or not, I toiled up the climbs from Linlithgow. This was not helped by dodgy indexing meaning I already knew the 25T cog would not be available. Funny how it can be shifting like a dream on the stand, yet the moment you step on the pedals everything changes. Also at the back of my mind was the memory of last June’s failure. In some respects, I was already beaten and so it was to be. Long story short, I cracked just before the summit of the first real part of Cairnpapple and spent the remainder of our ride bewildered.
My mental block about Cairnpapple is a daft one when you consider that I’ve conquered longer and steeper climbs without too much drama. I’ve previously blogged about the Duke’s Pass and Schiehallion over which I’d genuinely lost sleep, driven by my fear of breaking down, blowing up or collapsing sideways when things point really skywards. I remained irked for the rest of last week. There was only one thing to do about this.
Perhaps buoyed by Super Saturday at the Olympics, I rolled out of bed on Sunday morning with some purpose. Scratch that, I had one purpose: to beat Cairnpapple. With Real Life scheduled to intervene later in the morning, this would have to be quick so a climb up to Beecraigs and across would have to suffice rather than the slog from Linlithgow, but direct from my door it’s largely uphill regardless.
The approaches were uneventful, although I was working hard and arm-warmers were already down by the time I reached Beecraigs. Rear mech tinkering the previous afternoon meant I was finding and – more importantly – holding 25T without any problems (I think the mech hanger may actually be bent, but that’s another story). The fact I didn’t actually NEED it at that point was also a bonus so the first mental block was removed. The road from Beecraigs can be a slog but I was happy with my climbing and also being able to take advantage of the rolling nature of the road with reasonably fresh legs.
As far as the cyclist is concerned, Cairnpapple begins with a sharp left-hand junction off the main road before it briefly levels out before commencing the first climb which is also a right-hand turn. I dug in and worked my way up past the visitors’ entrance to the historic site, knowing that I’d binned it here a few nights previously. I’d already made progress. Levelling out, I was a happy man before the road then plummeted right then left to the base of the second and larger climb. As with many climbs on the road, this one looks hellish, disappearing up to the right but, as I would soon discover, is eminently doable.
Okay, dig in, Gary. Up to that first marker, keep it going. Keep the upper body steady and keep your energy for the legs. That’s the game. Come on, Stumpy, dig in, mate. That’s it, that’s it, THAT’S IT!!! The lone walker at the summit of the cairn itself must have been bemused at sight of a lunatic on a bike coming over the crest of the road shouting, “Yeeeeeessssss!!!!!!”
Now, I know that some of you will be wondering what the fuss was about and it won’t be a big deal, especially if you’ve been over that climb yourself. But it was important to me, maybe as much for understanding how my mind works than just for being able to say I’d ridden up a big hill. In 2 previous attempts, I’d never considered that it was essentially 2 big efforts with a recovery in between. I’d just viewed it as one big monster of a climb that had beaten me every time I’d gone near it but it wasn’t actually Cairnpapple that had beaten me.
It was me.
Tags: Gary, Psycho, Road, Rubbish